Bertha Lutz

Bertha Maria Júlia Lutz (August 2, 1894 – September 16, 1976) was a Brazilian zoologist, politician, and diplomat. Lutz became a leading figure in both the Pan American feminist movement and human rights movement.[1] She was instrumental in gaining women's suffrage in Brazil and represented her country at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, signing her name to the United Nations Charter. In addition to her political work, she was a naturalist at the National Museum of Brazil, specializing in poison dart frogs. She has three frog species and two lizard species named after her.

Bertha Lutz
Bertha Lutz 1925.jpg
Bertha Lutz in 1925
Bertha Maria Júlia Lutz

August 2, 1894
São Paulo, SP, Brazil
DiedSeptember 16, 1976(1976-09-16) (aged 82)
Other namesLutz Berta
OccupationBrazilian scientist

Early life and educationEdit

Bertha Lutz was born in São Paulo. Her father, Adolfo Lutz (1855–1940), was a pioneering physician and epidemiologist of Swiss origin, and her mother, Amy Marie Gertrude Fowler, was a British nurse. Bertha Lutz studied natural sciences, biology and zoology at the University of Paris - Sorbonne, graduating in 1918. Soon after obtaining her degree, she returned to Brazil.[2][3]


Women’s suffrageEdit

In 1919, a year after returning to Brazil, Lutz founded the League for Intellectual Emancipation of Women and was appointed to represent the Brazilian government in the Female International Council of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Lutz later created the Brazilian Federation for Women's Progress (1922), a political group which advocated for Brazilian women's rights, most importantly, their right to vote, around the world. Lutz served as a delegate to the Pan-American Conference of Women in Baltimore, Maryland, that same year, and would continue to attend women's rights conferences in the years to follow.[4] In 1925, she was elected president of the Inter-American Union of Women.[5] Lutz's involvement in the fight for women's suffrage made her the leading figurehead of women's rights until the end of 1931, when Brazilian women finally gained the right to vote.

Inter-American feminist campaignEdit

Lutz's advocacy for the rights of women did not end with the right to vote, and she continued to play a prominent role in the feminist campaign. In 1933, after obtaining her law degree from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Faculty of Law, Lutz participated and introduced several proposals for gender equity in the Inter-American Conference of Montevideo, Uruguay. Most notable of these proposals was her call for the refocusing of the Inter-American Commission of Women on the issue of gender equality in the workplace.[6]

In 1935, Lutz decided to run for National Congress of Brazil and came in second behind Cándido Pessoa, and replaced him when he died a year later, making Lutz one of the few Brazilian Congresswomen of the time. The first initiative that Lutz presented while in Congress was the creation of the “Statute of women”, a committee to analyze every Brazilian law and statute to ensure none violated the rights of women.[7]

Bertha Lutz with family, feminists, and the Brazilian Federation for Women's Progress on the stairs of the Chamber of Deputies, Rio de Janeiro. (1936)

Lutz, however, was unable to push forward her measures when Getúlio Vargas was reinstated as dictator in 1937, which led to a suspension of parliament, and the Statute project.[8] Lutz nonetheless continued her diplomatic career. She was one of the four women to sign the United Nations Charter at the Inter-American Conference of Women held in San Francisco in 1945 and served as vice president of the Inter-American Commission of Women from 1953 to 1959.[9]

Scientific careerEdit

After returning to Brazil in 1918, Lutz dedicated herself to the study of amphibians, especially poison dart frogs and frogs of the family Hylidae.[10] In 1919, she was hired by the Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. She later became a naturalist at the Section of Botany. Throughout her lifetime, Lutz would publish numerous scientific studies and publications, most notably “Observations on the life history of the Brazilian Frog” (1943), “A notable frog chorus in Brazil” (1946), and “New frogs from Itatiaia mountain” (1952).[11] In 1958, she described what is now known as Lutz's rapids frog (Paratelmatobius lutzii Lutz and Carvalho, 1958), which is named in honor of her father.[12]

Lutz is honored in the names of two species of Brazilian lizards, Liolaemus lutzae and Phyllopezus lutzae,[12] as well as three species of frogs, Dendropsophus berthalutzae, Megaelosia lutzae, and Scinax berthae.[13]

Political conferencesEdit

During the 1919 International Congress of Working Women, Lutz advocated for equality among the sexes and the specific mention of women in the clauses that protect against injustices and abuse.[14]

At the 1922 Pan-American Conference of Women, Lutz advocated for the equality of rights and opportunity of women, with a special focus on political inclusion.[9]

Lutz came prepared to the 1933 Inter-American Conference of Montevideo with a study of the legal status of women in the Americas and advocated that the nationality of married women should not be contingent on that of their husbands. She also proposed an Equals Rights treaty and pushed the Inter-American Commission of Women to refocus and recommit to analyzing working conditions of women in the Americas.[15]

Lutz receiving the Doutor Honoris Causa (Mills College, 1945)
Lutz at the UN conference (San Francisco, 1945)

During the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, Lutz, along with Minerva Bernardino, fought for the inclusion of the word “women” in the preamble to the United Nations Charter. The first draft didn't mention the word "women", and against US delegate Virginia Gildersleeve and British female advisors, Lutz and other women from Latin America insisted in the final clause read: " in fundamental human rights, in the dignity of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small"[16] She further proposed the creation of a special commission of Women whose purpose it would be to analyze the "legal status of Women" around the world in order to better understand the inequalities they face and be better prepared to combat them. She is credited with being the most prominent and tenacious advocate for the inclusion of women's rights in the charter, and without her work the United Nations would likely not have a mandate to protect women's rights.[17]

Lutz in later years.

In 1964, Lutz headed the Brazilian delegation at the 14th Inter-American Commission in Montevideo.[18] Additionally, at the 15th annual meeting of the Inter-American Commission of Women held in 1970, she proposed to hold a seminar dedicated to addressing the specific problems faced by indigenous women. Although she was a little over seventy during this stage of her life, Lutz continued to attend conferences and push for the expansion of women's rights, including the World Conference on Women, 1975, in Mexico City.[19]

Selected worksEdit

  • “Observations on the life history of the Brazilian Frog” (1943)
  • “A notable frog chorus in Brazil” (1946)
  • “New frogs from Itatiaia mountain” (1952).


She died in 1976 at the age of 82.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ June E. Hahner, "Bertha Maria Julia Lutz" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 3, pp. 474–75. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  2. ^ "Vida Pessoal". Museo Virtual de Berta Lutz. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  3. ^ Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, PE: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. p. 129.
  4. ^ Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, PE: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. pp. 31–33.
  5. ^ Pernet, Corinne (2000). "Chilean Feminists, the international Women's Movement, and Suffrage, 915–1950". Pacific Historical Review. 69 (4): 663–688. doi:10.2307/3641229. JSTOR 3641229.
  6. ^ Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, PE: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. p. 73.
  7. ^ Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, PE: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. p. 75.
  8. ^ a b Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, PE: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. p. 132.
  9. ^ a b Miller, Francesca. "Women, Culture, and Politics in Latin America". UC Press E-books Collection. University of California Press.
  10. ^ Lutz, Bertha (1973). Brazilian Species of "Hyla". Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. 260 pp. ISBN 978-0292707047.
  11. ^ Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. p. 133.
  12. ^ a b Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Lutz, A." and "Lutz, B. M. J.", p. 163).
  13. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2013). The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians. Exeter, England: Pelagic Publishing. pp. 22, 130. ISBN 978-1-907807-44-2.
  14. ^ Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, PE: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. p. 32.
  15. ^ Marques, Teresa Cristina. "Between the Equalitarism and Women's Rights Reformation: Bertha Lutz at Montevideo Interamerican Conference, 1933". Revista Estudos Feministas. 21 (3).
  16. ^ Skard, Torild (2008). "Getting Our History Right: How Were the Equal Rights of Women and Men Included in the Charter of the United Nations?". Forum for Development Studies. 35 (1): 37–60. doi:10.1080/08039410.2008.9666394.
  17. ^ "Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) at SOAS University of London".
  18. ^ Lôbo, Yolanda Lima (2010). Bertha Lutz. Recife, PE: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Editora Massangana. p. 97.
  19. ^ Hahner, "Lutz", p. 475.

Further readingEdit

  • Hahner, June E. Emancipating the Female Sex: The Struggle for Women's Rights in Brazil, 1850–1940. (1990)

External linksEdit